All About Your Elbow

The elbow is a complex joint that connects the lower forearm to the upper arm bone. The end of each bone contains cartilage that helps with shock absorption. Between these joints are the joint capsules and bursae, which help with lubrication. Three ligaments connect to the bone and help with flexibility. The elbow is also the most overused joint by athletes and everyday people alike. Over time, and with constant use, the joint is prone to a range of injuries and conditions, some of which require elbow surgery.

city place surgery center 5 Reasons You Might Need Elbow Surgery Bursitis_ RA _ Tennis Elbow

Is surgery necessary?

The overuse of the elbow can cause pain, swelling, and discomfort. These symptoms mainly affect older people as the cartilage begins to wear away. Doctors agree that most cases of pain do not require surgery and respond well to non-surgical treatment. For example, elbow pain can improve from using ice packs, non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), and compression therapy. If these simple methods fail, the doctor may turn to advanced techniques like steroid injections. The possibility of surgery comes up if the pain is chronic and happens for one of the following 5 conditions.

1. Clearing up your bursitis

Bursitis is a painful condition involving the bursa. Between most joints are bursa, tiny sacs that contain synovial fluid that helps with lubrication. Due to overuse, the bursa becomes inflamed and presses on surrounding tissue and nerves. Bursitis in the elbow is quite common and can restrict movement, cause pain, and lead to swelling. Sometimes, a doctor may choose to drain excess fluid in the bursa. If that fails, surgery may be necessary to remove the entire bursa, especially when there is an infection.

2. Treating painful RA

There are several different types of arthritis, but rheumatoid arthritis or RA can be excruciating. RA is an autoimmune condition where the body’s immune system attacks healthy cells. The disease does not move like other forms of arthritis, which can be gradual. RA is a bit more immediate, damaging the lining of joints like the elbow. Multiple joints can become damaged and even deformed. If the joint becomes severely impaired, surgery will be best. Based on the damage, the orthopedic surgeon may need to remove the lining, repair tendons, or replace the joint altogether.

3. Tennis elbow

Tennis elbow, also called lateral epicondylitis, is the most common form of elbow injury on this list. The name comes from the pain and discomfort tennis players suffer from overuse. However, anyone who uses the arm repeatedly can develop the condition. With tennis elbow, the tendons that connect to the joints become swollen. The joint flares up with lifting, gripping an object, or raising the arm overhead. If the condition restricts movement, surgery may be best. Lateral epicondylitis release surgery involves removing bone spurs, damaged tissue, and cutting away part of the extensor tendon. Along with physical therapy, the surgery has a high recovery and success rate.

4. Treatment of osteoarthritis

RA might be one of the more painful forms of arthritis, but osteoarthritis is the most common. About 1 in 5 Americans will develop osteoarthritis in at least one joint in the body. Osteoarthritis is the wear and tear of cartilage and bone, which can create a range of symptoms. These include pain, stiffness, crepitus, and swelling. People with osteoarthritis may need to manage the symptoms for several years. However, severe cases may require surgery. Surgical procedures range from removing bone, cartilage, or a total joint replacement.

5. Osteochondritis dissecans

Osteochondritis dissecans or OD happens when the bone behind the joint dies due to a lack of blood flow. Pieces of bone and cartilage may detach, particularly after physical activity. The condition can cause pain, loss of motion, and joint weakness. Most cases happen with young children and adolescents, but some adults can experience OD as well. A doctor can recommend different non-surgical treatment options, especially rest. With young people, the bones are still growing, so surgery may not be necessary. If this is not the case and the pain persists, surgery can remove damaged fragments, clean bone spurs, or remove damaged tissue.

Don’t ignore your elbow pain

Consistent elbow pain can be an underlying medical condition. If left unchecked or unmanaged, the pain can impact the use of the arm. Make sure to visit a doctor first for a complete diagnosis, including an X-ray or MRI. Once the correct condition is confirmed, discuss the possibility of minimally invasive surgery, especially if non-surgical treatment fails.

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